**My comments marked thus**
Now I am sure plenty of my fellow birdwatchers will not like the title of
this note nor some of the statements in it nonetheless the naive stupidity
of a headline stating that "Drought has a bright side for ducks" I feel
must be challenged.
**I also think the drought is a tragedy. I am certain that there are no
anti-duck shooters hip-hooraying because there is a drought. I have
previously mentioned that it is an outright shame that it has taken the
worst drought ever to stop the shooting. But what do you think is the
prospect. The first is trying to survive in a drought as best you can on
diminishing wetlands; or trying to
survive a drought on diminishing wetlands whilst dodging gun shot and being
scared off the one bit
of water you can find? Just where are they meant to go?? I can see a
little bit of brightness in the first alternative.**
At the moment there are hundreds of Freckled Ducks on Kangaroo Island
desperately trying to find somewhere in this parched continent to survive as
their usual habitat has totally dried up. Every other wetland here is
seething with waterfowl and this is the first time in eleven years I have
seen Freckled Duck on the island.
**So wouldn't you think it a little irresponsible to let a bunch of
shooters who often hold ... how can I put this.... varying degrees of
and sensibilities, loose on these desperate, highly condensed populations,
as we have the very same situation in Victoria?**
Research by scientists such as Dr Harry Frith using banding techniques have
shown that in a devastating drought such as the one we are in the grip of at
present Australian waterfowl scatter in every direction trying to survive.
They fly to New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Indonesia trying to find
some refuge, most of them die, there is no bright side.
**Yes, but why make it worse for them?**
Conversely duck-shooting is sustainable, again referring to Dr Harry Frith
in "Waterfowl in Australia" of a given population of Grey Teal the mortality
rates are first year 60%, second year 80%, third year 96%. His studies at
that time showed the shooting pressure accounted for 11% of the mortality,
insignificant compared with the natural death rate.
** I believe Harry Firth's research was from the 50's to early 80's. But I
think the world is a changing place. We have global warming, climate
change, land clearing and environment degradation. I agree that native
birds have more than droughts to worry about. Does our wildlife really
need another challenge so that some people can go out and shoot them for
And also another factor affecting duck shooting that cannot be ignored and
was highlighted by the Sunday Age Editorial, is that public opinion has
changed. Things that were acceptable in days gone by (shooting native
waterbirds) are now no longer acceptable in the eyes of the public.**
If we had a duck-shooting season this year it would mean we were not in the
grip of the prolonged drought that is devastating waterfowl populations.
** This is where we differ greatly. MANY people think there should NOT be a
duck-shooting season, drought or no drought. But we ARE in a prolonged
drought this year and that is why duck shooters are not going to be
able to shoot them this year. Give the birds a break -- and it's not just
it is anything else that is out on or near a wetland.**
It is easy to focus on the scapegoat of the evil duck-shooter yet by doing
this we are becoming bogged down in emotive issues and losing sight of the
big picture. In my opinion this is the biggest crisis faced by waterfowl in
Australia since white settlement. In the last 200 years our wetlands have
never been so controlled, degraded and destroyed.
In earlier times after a drought such as this one the waterfowl would
recover with the massive floods that would inevitably spread out across the
inland plains when the big rains eventually came. When the rains come now
they will probably only fill the dams and reservoirs that have been sucked
dry by unsustainable irrigation practices in this country.
If we care about conservation of waterfowl, forget about duck-shooting
concentrate on the unsustainable rice and cotton farming that has sucked the
biggest river system in the country dry.
When we see as was publicized a few weeks ago the country's deputy prime
minister Mr Anderson stating they would not consider closing down one farm
if that was what was needed to improve the health of the Murray River then
that is where our problems lie.
**I don't think anyone is blaming duck shooters for the total state of the
nation and I think many people think of all those other things you mention
too, especially on this list. Native waterbirds indeed have a LOT to
Over the years the people who have put more money and effort into wetland
conservation in Australia than any other group have been the duck-shooters.
I am sure that many of you have visited the magnificent crater lakes and
vegetated islands of Tower Hill near Warnambool in Victoria. Before that
land was purchased by duck-shooters it was a degraded, denuded area infested
by rabbits, foxes and weeds. They started the process of restoration and in
due course passed the control of the land back to the state of Victoria.
**Some people find the fact that some people work on conservation so that
they can shoot the things they are conserving just a tad odd. I know I
The argument against duck-shooting is an ethical one on the basis of
cruelty. It would be incorrect to say that there is not pain and suffering
caused to animals and birds by hunting, but as you sit down to your chicken
dinner raised in cruelty in a factory farm or you have your roast lamb I
would suggest you would not eat it if you have seen the cruel process of
mulesing sheep. It is easy to condemn hunters for being cruel but I would
suggest only the vegetarians are arguing from a position of strength. The
other point is it any more ethically wrong to shoot a duck than it is to
haul a fish out of the ocean and to leave it to drown slowly in air.
**Cruelty certainly plays a very large part in duck shooting. I'd like to
add here, that if what we do to produce our food via factory
farming is cruel and causes pain and suffering, it is hardly a good reason
to excuse the same happening to our wildlife, especially when duck shooting
is a recreational activity**
I am a birdwatcher, I have been actively involved in conservation issues in
the eleven years I have lived on Kangaroo Island and I am a fourth
generation duck-shooter, they are excellent food and I eat what I shoot. In
a few minutes I will head along the shore here at American River to look for
some egrets, Eastern Curlews, spoonbills and all the ducks that are here
trying to survive.
**Congrats on your conservation work.
My grandfather also shot game birds and he used to take my father along. It
the only time he spoke to my dad, perhaps that is why my dad went. It was
"Keep up Tom, lad" in a very broad Yorkshire accent whilst hiking over the
Yorkshire Moors. Fortunately, the tradition was lost on dad as he was far
more interested in saving doomed kittens and hiding them in his bedroom
chimney. People change, and now dad likes watching birds in his garden and
wouldn't be keen on too many cats around.
Times often change for the better too, some slower than others. I'm always
staggered to recall
that Australia was still hunting ever diminishing populations of whales
right up until the 1970's !
I think it is time we gave our native birds a break too. **
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